From the fluffy, speckled chicks of spring, our season of curlew head-starting starts to come to a close as the ever-earlier evenings fill with the calls of the charismatic curlew, now handsomely feathered and modelling their impressive down-curved bills.
Beginning in late July, the first seventeen curlew of the year were released. An early start for the teams at Pensthorpe and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), staff met at the pre-release pens at Wild Ken Hill to give the final go ahead for the birds. With five birds sporting GSP tags, looking rather like small backpacks, Sam Franks of the BTO checked the GPS tags were all relaying their locations correctly before giving the thumbs-up for the aviary panels to be removed – a doorway to the wild for the first curlews of the year. Cosmos (YH) quickly took the lead, followed by the rest of the cohort, including Chad (XV), Custard (XP) and Curie (XT).
Next stop was the pen at Sandringham, where Cassandra (YK), Cecil (XL) and their friends were patiently waiting. Attending staff were greeted with a spectacular aerial display of these now wild curlews, taking their first flights to explore the skies of Norfolk.
If you walk around the Snettisham Heacham area, or further afield and your ears pick up the bubbling call of a curlew, try to look out for the yellow leg tags of these Pensthorpe birds. Please report any letter or number combinations that you see, especially important for birds without GPS tags to help us build a picture of the movements of these birds and where they are feeding and living. Sightings can be recorded here.
Further releases have been a great success, to date, 28 curlews have been released so far this season, with younger birds currently being processed for their own upcoming releases. As the team at Pensthorpe reflect on a busy season of curlew rearing, they wonder where the antics of these curlews will take them, and where they choose to settle. Will they join Potato (6X) on the beach by Ken Hill, Hope (9J) in Gedney, Lincolnshire or perhaps even Astra (9L) in France?